Three years since the Paris Declaration was signed by 56 countries progress appears dim and far between.
In a study commissioned on 12 of the 24 African countries that signed the 2005 Declaration, only four have started implementing government-donor coordination systems of aligning donor support with national development strategies.
A study launched at the on going 3rd High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Accra, Ghana revealed that Ethiopia, Ghana, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon were among the 12 countries selected for the research that took place between 2006-2008.
The four countries were found to have developed joint assistance strategy mechanisms for donor harmonisation.
In spite of the achievements, however, the study found that gender equality priorities were generally neglected in the predominant aid delivery modalities, jeopardising the achievement of more effective development results.
The study, however, indicated that a key challenge in assessing the extent to which gender equality goals are being supported is lack of gender specific indicators across different sectors.
The study was a joint effort between the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and the European Commission.
Reforms were found to be occurring in the four countries and there had been progress, primarily with mechanisms and tools for delivery of aid.
However, these reforms have not necessarily led to improvements in the lives of poor women and men.
“From the study it is clear that achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) depends on advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment and that the impact of any aid must advance the goals,” said Ms Ines Alberdi, UNIFEM Executive Director.
She observed: “Government institutions and civil society organisations need capacity building to foster dialogue amongst them on issues of gender equality and macroeconomic policy.”
The study illustrated that long-term dialogue is needed in ensuring gender equality is fully integrated into national development plans and budgets.
Gender being a creation of political goodwill called on leaders to create a conducive environment in virtually all sectors, observed Ms Irene Horejs, European Union Deputy Director General for Development.
She appealed on governments to make approaches that can yield tangible achievements in rural areas where majority of poor people live.
“While there is increased attention to gender inequality, human rights and equity issues at the policy level, both implementation and monitoring continue to lag behind hence calling for effective measures in bridging the gap,” Horejes said.
Speaking at the launch of the study, former Ireland President Ms Mary Robinson said the greatest progress in countries only came about where there is strong government leadership by both the ministries of Finance and Planning in partnership with ministries of Women Affairs in monitoring social goals through evaluation.
Robinson appealed to donors to explore new ways of working with governments and civil society in solving crucial problems such as health care, poverty and education.
She called for the democratic ownership that will ensure women are able to participate, and influence the decision-making processes that affect every aspect of their lives within family, community and at work.
“Investing in women and girls is a sure way of reducing poverty in families and communities,” reiterated Robinson. She explained: “Investing in women pays off, not only in short term, but also for future generations.”
She challenged governments to ensure support for small-scale farmers, majority of who are women in ensuring food security. Such support should include availing seeds and fertilisers as well as giving the right of access to land as a way of improving food productivity.
There was need for gender responsive public financial management systems which measures whether women and girls have access to health, education, agricultural extension, business advice, clean water, decent work and salary. It also measures whether they are getting the benefits to which they are entitled.
“Women and girls are the litmus tests of whether our efforts towards poverty reduction are successful,” Robinson said.
The study was also done in Indonesia, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Honduras, Suriname, Nicaragua, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan. It found that there still exists a gap between rhetoric and practice with regards to implementation of the Paris Declaration principles at country level.
Despite donor commitments to the principle of alignment, aid delivery still needed to be fully aligned with national development plans and particularly with gender equality and women’s empowerment goals.